Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Assessing the team composition is incumbent upon any investor, as the team can make even a mediocre product come to life, or can break an excellent one.

"You can’t build any kind of organization if you’re not going to surround yourself with people who have experience and a skill base beyond your own." — Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

Once an entrepreneur assesses the marketplace for a need and determines the revenue model, they need to assemble a team to both create the product and assist in running the company functions. Assessing the team composition is incumbent upon any investor, as the team can make even a mediocre product come to life, or can break an excellent one.

The team functions will include the founder, who may or may not be the CEO (Chief Executive Officer). As well, there may be more than one founder (co-founders, or even a trifecta of founders). These multi-founder models deserve extra attention, as the company’s survival may depend upon the positive relationship between the founders. And we all know how complicated relationships are.

On the other hand, sometimes solo-founder companies can be compromised by the fact that it is only one person’s vision, and this vision may need to be tempered by other views. A dictatorial founder can be a positive force in a company, a negative force, incredibly effective and efficient – or most times, a bit of all four.

The rest of the team is usually made up of functional roles, which can include: Marketing, Sales, Business Development, Communications, Human Resources and Product Development / Engineering.

For most small companies, the staff wear plenty of hats, but clear divisions in departments and roles is a good thing. Too much cross-over or grey areas, and the staff can lose track of who is in charge of what. However, leaving plenty of room for freedom and growth within each role in a small company can ensure that the company stays light on its feet when it comes to innovating or ‘pivoting’ should the product need to move in another direction. Big companies who have large departments and not enough cross-over in roles can limit themselves and make themselves vulnerable in some ways to smaller, more agile companies.

Once the appropriate roles have been determined for a company, it’s time to look at the experience of the team. Do they have the proper experience in their role? Have they worked in this type of business before (i.e., if it’s a fashion business, do they have fashion experience)? An investor will evaluate how well this team can take an idea to market. It’s one thing to have the idea and establish that there is a market need for it, but execution is where companies succeed or fail.

The company will need to be able to market the product or service, sell it and continue to innovate into various channels, partnerships and diversify into other revenue streams. To do this, it will need to have a talented group of employees who can master all of the tasks required.

When analyzing the viability of a company and its chances for success, look at the team – their attitude, their experience, their roles and how they will be working together. Many investors will say this is the final criterion in their decision to fund a company. It may well be yours as well.

Articles to read:

5 Steps for Building a Great Startup Team – Inc.

How to Build Your Startup Team – The Startup Guide

The secret to building a world-class startup team – Venture Beat